PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 22299

Address to the Dail Leinster House, Dublin

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 23/05/2006

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 22299

Presiding Officers, Taoiseach, Honourable Members. Can I say to you Sir how much I appreciate that very warm welcome and how very conscious I am of the honour that is being conferred on me but more importantly on my country; the opportunity I am given to address this meeting of the Irish Parliament.

As a lover of the parliamentary system and an admirer of what it enables us to do in the cut and thrust of the parliamentary debate, it is a very special privilege to address the parliament of any nation, but particularly to address the elected representatives of the people of Ireland.

There are precious links between Australia and Ireland. They are links about which volumes have been written over the years by both the Irish and the Australians. The Irish have had an immense impact on our national character, on our politics and in many respects the way in which we view the world. The most famous chronicler of the Irish in Australia, Patrick O'Farrell once wrote "that the Irish in Australia is an impossible subject, too vast, too various, too complex and certainly too elusive". I won't therefore attempt to do what he said was impossible but I must in passing make a few observations about the indelible and everlasting legacy that the Irish people have bequeathed to my country.

That includes much of our sentimentality. It includes a significant part of our prized larrikin spirit and it certainly includes a directness and candour in our personal dealings with one another. The Irish have also contributed enormously to our love of language and literature. The way in which Irish authors and poets have instructed us in the wonders of our language is something that is deeply understood and affectionately regarded in Australia.

The Irish in Australia have also demonstrated incredible resilience. Those that were directly from Ireland and those of Irish decent were not always treated as fairly as they are and have been in the modern Australia. For almost a hundred years the catholic community of Australia, which during the period from 1860 - 1960 was overwhelmingly of Irish stock, was forced to maintain completely from within their own resources an independent education system without any government assistance because of a decision taken by the various colonial governments in the 19 century to introduce the system that was described as free, compulsory and secular. And it wasn't until the 1960s that assistance began to be given. And the resilience of that community in maintaining their own education system from often very meagre resources stands to the testament to the determination and the resilience of those people.

Australia today sees an Irish nation fully understanding the balance and the nature of its history and I acknowledge very warmly, the decision of your government to mark the 1916 Easter Rising with a military parade this year. Just as I acknowledge the government's decision to honour both thousands of Irishmen who fell in the terrible battles of the Somme in 1916 and in Gallipoli. And of course they fell in their thousands alongside sons of Australia who fell in their thousands during those terrible battles.

I applaud the progress being made in relation to the long hard road to a fair and just settlement in Northern Ireland. Australia has been an active helper. We're certainly an interested spectator and we greatly admire the cooperative efforts between successive Prime Minister's of Great Britain and Taoiseach's of Ireland. And we hope that there is an end to the long and often bloody road towards a fair settlement in Northern Ireland. But it is important as I've done on a number of occasions since I've spoken in Dublin, it is important to remind ourselves that the relationship between our two countries, much in all as we feel a sense of nostalgia and we're sentimental about it, and we feel warm about and we break in to laughter about it, it's very important that we not just see it as a relationship nurtured by history and sentiment. It is a contemporary people to people relationship, and one of the wonderful things about it is the way in which the young of Australia visit Ireland and the young of Ireland visit Australia in growing numbers-something that didn't happen a generation ago and something that I know both governments applaud. Significant that Ireland is the third most frequent user of the young visitor visa programme in Australia.

Both of our countries of course are enjoying very significant economic success. And I take this opportunity Honourable Members to applaud the extraordinary economic performance of Ireland over the past two decades. The way in which this country through a combination of innovative polices, hard work and imagination, have lifted their economy from great difficulty to a situation where it is the fastest growing economy in the European Union. It has enviable low levels of unemployment and it boast a modern high tech economy. It can boast exports in areas that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. And it has gone in a very short period of time from being an economy that was sometimes however unfairly pitied by its friends to an economy which is the envy of like nations around the world, and in marked contrast to many of the other economies of the European Union and indeed economies around the world.

Australia of course is no stranger to economic growth and expansion herself. And you would be surprised if I came here as Prime Minister of Australia without sharing with you something of our economic achievements and economic success. We are now in the 15th successive year of economic expansion. And Australia is enjoying the strongest period of economic growth, at anytime since the end of the Second World War. And it's an economic growth that is more soundly based than it has been in the past. We have levels of economic growth in the 1960s that may have approached what we now enjoy. But in the 1960s the Australian economy was a closed inward looking protected economy. We had a fixed exchanged rate, we had high tariff walls, we had an even more highly regulated labour market, we were in everyway an inward looking economy, and in many respects a inward looking nation.

So much of that has changed and because of successive reforms, let me give credit to predecessor governments to mine in relation to some of those reforms. We have brought about major changes, we have now totally eliminated our government debt and we have the lowest levels of unemployment for something like 30 years....for some 30 years. And this, my friends is a product of continuous economic reform. And there's a lesson in this, not only for Australia, but dare I say it, there's a lesson in this for both of us. Because there is in the modern globalised world no turning back to economic isolation and economic protection.

We live forever in a world transformed by communication and globalisation. And countries that have taken advantage of those developments are countries that should never turn back-and that means not only Australia-it means Ireland and it means all the countries that see themselves as modern progressive economies.

All of us must embrace more reform. All of us must explore new boundaries of openness. I frequently employ in Australia the metaphor to describe economic competition in the world, the metaphor of participating in a foot race towards an receding finishing line; you never get there, you keep trying, but you can't slow down because if you do the other participants in the race are going to go past you. And that is the nature of economic competition in the modern world.

This of course inevitably brings me in a spirit of candour to the current Doha Trade Round. Let me say in that spirit that the world must not allow this Trade Round to fail. If it were to fail the developing world will feel cheated, they will feel that the more developed privileged parts of the world have ignored their interests. And most importantly of all, if the Doha Trade Round fails on this occasion, it will in my view be many years before an American administration, again receives from Congress, the amplitude of the trade negotiating mandate that the Bush Administration has and which has led the Americans to make a very generous offer in relation to the phasing out of export subsidies.

In saying all of these things I do of course fully respect and understand the differences between Australia and Ireland on this issue. I understand the importance of the common agricultural policy to the Irish people and to the policies of successive Irish governments. I also understand that unless some progress is made in relation to agricultural reform and agricultural subsidies, it would be very difficult indeed for satisfactory progress to be made in the current Doha Trade Round.

We live in a world of course that confronts the scourge and the challenge of terrorism. And in the fight against terrorism, Ireland and Australia are united. None of us, no matter where we live, no matter what attitude we take on individual, political and foreign affairs issues, can regard ourselves as being immune from terrorism. Irish citizens died in the World Trade Centre, Australian citizens have died in various places as a result of terrorist attack-and most memorably of all, sadly in the Bali attack of October 2002 which claimed some 88 young Australians, who were doing nothing more than celebrating as most Australians do at the end of a long football season in various codes, celebrating the joy of mateship and the joy of being together in a holiday place that was familiar and friendly and beckoning and welcoming to them. And that is the nature, the indiscriminate, lethal, cruel nature of modern terrorism. And we all have a responsibility to meet it, we all have a responsibility to fight it-and there's no single solution-but it will need a combination of superb high quality intelligence, a strong military response where that is appropriate and justified, and very importantly of all a spread of democracy-especially within the Islamic world.

And in that context it's important to recognise the role and the place of moderate Islamic leaders because they can be a role model to those within their own countries, who are fighting against the intolerance of extreme Islam. And I think especially of President Yudhoyono of Indonesia, Australia's nearest neighbour, the moderate Islamic leader of the largest Islamic country in the world. A man who now leads a country that in a few short years has transformed itself from a military dictatorship to the third largest democracy in the world. And I think sometimes the rest of the world doesn't fully respect and understand the extraordinary transformation that has been achieved in that country.

And it is important that leaders such as that succeed because not only are they democratic, but their example of being successfully democratic can act as a powerful antidote to those within their own societies that would seek to play upon the prejudices of people who seek comfort and resort in extreme manifestations of Islam.

We do of course as countries, have our differences, not only in relation to trade areas, I know that in relation to the military operation in Iraq there were difference frankly acknowledged between Australia and Ireland and Australia and other countries. And it's not my point or my purpose to debate those differences today. But it would be I think a grievous error on my part if in a democratically elected chamber I did not take the opportunity of saluting the bravery and courage, as I know you all will of the Iraqi people on three occasions, voting in circumstances of most fearful, physical intimidation. And I believe that the formation of an all party government in that country does represent something of a watershed, certainly in the time that has gone by since March of 2003 and does offer hope of a better more secure future for the people of Iraq.

Sir I began in saying something of the great ties of history, and culture, and sentiment between the people of Australia and the people of Ireland. When I arrived in this country I felt in so many ways at home-not in a tawdry sentimental sense, but in a sense of feeling comfortable and welcome. The ease of discourse I've had with the people of this capital of yours in the few days I've been here have confirmed all of the prejudices I brought here about the nature of the relationship between our two countries.

Ireland has been an enormous tributary of the modern Australian nation. It has given us gifts and it's reminded us about the resonances we have with our history and our past. I believe that not only is it a relationship that is deeply steeped in sentiment and nostalgia and history, but it's a relationship that enable us, all these miles apart to talk with candour and frankness about contemporary challenges. Good friends are the friends you can speak to and speak to directly and with candour and frankness knowing that that will not disturb the warmth of your relationship.

May I again say, and may in conclude on this note that I am very conscious of the great honour that you have paid to me, more importantly, the complement that you have extended to Australia. Australia will always retain a deep affection for Ireland and the Irish people, and will always be grateful for what this wonderful nation, wonderful people have vouchsafed to the people of Australia.

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 22299